Before the advent of the “selfie” or “yoga selfie,” when we made images of ourselves, they were called “self-portraits.”
Since the beginning of time, artists (see: Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, Francesca Woodman, Chuck Close, Teun Hocks, Cindy Sherman, Walker Evans to name but a few—as well as every poet, musician and writer I can think of) used themselves as subject matter in their own art.
We explored, deconstructed, reconstructed, created dialogue, pushed boundaries, expressed ourselves and made art using the one thing we knew the best and the one thing that remained a complete mystery to us: ourselves.
I have been making images of myself since I was fifteen; it is as much a practice as everything else and through this intimate and divine act, I have come to know myself.
From too young an age, I have fought a war with this shape of mine because she never fit into the norm or what was celebrated, and although I’ve laid down my sword in surrender many a time, the war rages on until I can feel the roar in my chest and the soft animal of this body pulls me back into her embrace.
The origin of self-hatred starts with the map of stretch marks etched down the backs of my legs, carved like lace down my thighs, hugging my waist and tattooed deeply into my breasts.
I made them (and my body, in the process) into a life-long enemy and I have wasted much of this precious life wishing that they (and I) were something (or someone) else.
There were other “imperfect” parts of me that I lost myself in the dissection of and created stories about to prove to myself why I was undeserving or would never be happy or why it was likely I would never by loved. I wished so desperately that I would wake up and be perfect and THEN I could be happy in my life.
Everywhere we look, we are told that we are not okay how we are; here are 10 THINGS WE CAN DO FOR TOTAL HAPPINESS or HOW TO CURE FEELING SAD WITH ONE TRICK or INSERT SOMETHING RIDICULOUS HERE.
Human beings are re-touched and turned into super-humans and we expect that we can be one, too—it only makes sense that we create fucked up stories about how our im(perfect)ions need to be perfected or fixed somehow, as if we could never be enough as we are.
Even now, my camera sees me in a way that I do not see myself, although my eye has been retrained to a kinder, more compassionate way of seeing. I can laugh at myself when I’m being an asshole to myself and on the days when my distorted sense of body image hits me hard, I know how to be my own warrior of love and hold myself through the storm.
Moving my body and breath also gives me another lens to look through. Where before I saw weakness, I now see strength; my hate-thought patterns have been restructured into a deep appreciation of the ability to have a body that can move at all.
My mantra for some time, whether on the confines of my yoga mat or off the mat and into the world herself, is this: I am not this body, I am not this body.
The words started out as hope, a prayer even, that if said enough times might have the power to shift my shape and my flutter; or maybe even make my body disappear so that only a floating, beating, heart remained.
The soft animal of this body that has the ability to take me places; she moves and breathes, and I can’t remove her from me without removing me—so I am not this body, but I am.